Israel’s Agriculture Ministry believes it has managed to avert a shortage in lulavs — palm tree fronds that are one of the Four Species used in the Sukkot holiday — despite a last-minute announcement by Egypt that it will not allow exports of lulavs this year, according to a report by Israel’s Arutz Sheva.
Israeli palm tree growers are expected to be able to produce enough lulavs to meet the demand, and imports from other countries are still an option. The ministry also believes that lulav prices will not jump because of the unexpected situation.
According to a report on IDF Army Radio in late September, Egypt has decided not to export lulavs to Israel for the Sukkot holiday this year. The report said that the reason cited for the decision is the deterioration in ties between the two countries.
According to JTA, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote Egyptian Prime Essam Sharaf urging him to export lulavs in time for Sukkot.
“I understand that Egypt has previously limited the export of lulavs to prevent over-harvesting, and I appreciate the fact that Egypt has a sovereign right to manage its agricultural resources, but such prior export limitations were announced well in advance of Sukkot, giving Jewish communities ample notice to secure alternative supplies of lulavs before the holiday,” Berman wrote.
“In light of the recent tensions between Egypt and Israel, there is a widespread perception that the reported ban on lulav exports was imposed for purely political reasons,” Berman wrote. “I sincerely hope this is not the case, for such a restriction could deprive a very large number of Jewish people around the world — including many of my constituents in Los Angeles — of lulavs used in religious services.”
Israel’s Agriculture Ministry is encouraging Israeli palm tree growers to “meaningfully increase” lulav production. The ministry expects local growers to be able to supply 700,000 lulavs, which is about 40 percent of the annual demand, Haaretz reported. Another 700,000 of the 2 million lulavs used in diaspora Jewish communities also come from Egypt.
In Detroit, Avrohom Plotnik, owner of Spitzer’s Hebrew Book & Gift in Southfield, says the Egyptian embargo of lulavs affected him.
“The wholesale price is five times more,” he said. “All are from Israel and I have plenty, but the price will be $75 this year.” Last year, a set of lulav, etrog and willow, myrtle and palm branches was $65.
Coby Goutkovitch, owner of Coby’s Judaica in West Bloomfield, said, “Most of my customers are nonprofit organizations, like Hillel Day School, JARC, Congregation B’nai Israel, Temple Shir Shalom and The Shul,” he said. “This is my job in the community. If it happens, it happens. I am not charging extra this year.”